Spotlight on Leadership and Volunteerism

15 Nov, 2016


Spotlight on Leadership and Volunteerism

The Council’s Fall 2016 Board Meeting saw one of that gathering’s largest turnouts to date. During the meeting, held in mid-October, board members heard from member leadership and staff about the Council’s programs and strategic vision.

In addition, attendees received insight from a diverse group of speakers — including The Cook Political Report’s David Wasserman and futurist/media expert Michael Rogers — on issues affecting the public affairs landscape. Highlights of the meeting included the swearing-in of 2016‒2017 Council Chairman David Demarest and hearing his ideas about the future of the Council, and recognizing Patricia Murphy of BNSF Railway with the 2016 Volunteer of the Year award.

New Council Chair Seeks Deeper Ties to Academia

Given David Demarest’s experience in both the public affairs arena and the academic community, it makes perfect sense that one goal of the Council’s 2016‒2017 chairman is to increase connections between the two worlds.

Since 2005, Demarest has been vice president for public affairs at Stanford University. There he helped establish a first-of-its-kind executive education program called “Strategy Beyond Markets: Building Competitive Advantage Through Government Relations and Public Affairs.” In the program’s first offering, there were 30 participants, 17 from other countries.

The weeklong program, now going into its second year, helps corporate leaders better understand how “non-market forces affect business success,” Demarest says.

2016‒2017 Council Chairman David Demarest speaking at the Fall 2016 Board Meeting

“My hope is that over time we can attract C-suite executives from Silicon Valley and elsewhere and give them the opportunity to learn about the strategic value of public affairs,” he says.

Universities “in some respects, are a lot like other large institutions — both in the nonprofit and for-profit sectors,” Demarest said in remarks at the Council’s Fall 2016 Board Meeting. “We face regulatory challenges and stakeholder issues, and, of course, we frequently have to manage crises.” For that reason, among others, institutions of higher learning “ought to join the Council, and I’ll do what I can to help that process along.”

‘Soft Power and Influence’

Demarest is especially committed to working with business schools to encourage them to look at public affairs becoming part of their regular curriculum. “In a number of leading business schools, there is growing awareness of the importance of ‘non-market strategies,’” which Demarest defines as “ways to pursue strategic goals through political and social leverage.” Non-market strategies help an organization “gain soft power and influence so that it can be more effective in dealing with government, the news media and advocacy groups.”

Highest Levels of Government and Business

Before joining the academic world, Demarest worked at the highest levels of the federal government and at two of the world’s leading financial-services companies.

He began his political work on congressional campaigns in his native New Jersey and came to Washington, D.C., in the late 1970s. During the Reagan administration, Demarest was assistant U.S. trade representative for public, intergovernmental, and private sector affairs and was later assistant secretary of labor for public and intergovernmental affairs.

In 1988, he became communications director for the successful Bush-Quayle presidential campaign. From 1989 until late 1992, he was on the senior White House staff, as communications director, where he worked directly with the president, his chief of staff and his Cabinet.

After he left the White House in 1992, Demarest was executive vice president and director of corporate communications for Bank of America. And in 1999, he became executive vice president for global corporate relations and brand management for Visa International.

‘A Perfect Background’

“David is an accomplished leader and an exceptional strategist,” says Council President Doug Pinkham. “His political and business careers prepared him well for his position at Stanford, and now he works closely with some of the top academic minds in both fields. He has the perfect background to serve as chairman of the Public Affairs Council.”

Besides building deeper ties between the public affairs profession and institutions of higher learning, Demarest also wants the Council and its members to further their involvement with companies in other countries.

“More and more, companies based in this country are becoming engaged overseas — especially in Europe and Asia,” he says. “And more companies based in other countries have an increased need to understand government relations here.”

He sees his goals as “complementary to what [outgoing chairman Rusty Ring] and other chairmen have put forward in recent years.

“I want us to continue to be a voice of reason, pointing out that public engagement with government is not just appropriate but a social good. I want us to continue to speak for the positive contribution our profession makes.”

BNSF Railway’s Murphy Named Volunteer of the Year

Patricia Murphy, who was named the Council’s 2016 Volunteer of the Year at the Fall Board Meeting, still keeps a well-used copy of the Council’s Managing the Business-Employee PAC in her Washington, D.C., office. The manager of federal government affairs for BNSF Railway, Patti got the handbook in 1995, three years after the Council published it, and has treasured it ever since.

“[This] book was my Bible,” Patti says. “When I first worked as the administrator for Bristol-Myers Squibb’s PAC back in 1995, everything I knew about PACs I learned from the Council — from conferences and from staff, but from that book, too.”

Patti’s involvement with the Council goes back two decades, and the intervening years have seen her rise from secretary to leading public affairs professional. “I didn’t even complete my undergraduate degree until I was 32 and had three children,” she says. “I had been working for Bristol-Myers for almost 10 years when I decided to go back and finish my bachelor’s in business administration.”

Once she earned her degree, Patti was promoted from administrative assistant to manager of information systems and grassroots administrator for the pharmaceutical giant’s PAC. She joined GlaxoSmithKline in 2002 and went to work for BNSF in her present position in 2005.

Council President Doug Pinkham (left) and 2015‒2016 Chairman Rusty Ring with 2016 Volunteer of the Year Patti Murphy

Her involvement in Council activities has grown as she has progressed professionally. “Patti really embodies the idea of paying it forward in the PAC community,” says Sheree Anne Kelly, the Council’s senior vice president.

“She’s always willing to share her experience (which is very strong) with peers, help fellow practitioners with challenges, speak at events whenever asked, and offer recommendations and ideas to Council staff and members of the community. She really helps ensure that everyone around her elevates their expertise. She is an outspoken champion both within BNSF, as well as with other PAC professionals, about the value of the Council.”

Patti has spoken at conferences, workshops and seminars for the past five years. She didn’t attend this year’s National PAC Conference for a reason that speaks volumes about her belief in the benefits of the Council’s offerings — and about her generous attitude toward her coworkers. To conserve BNSF’s professional development dollars, she sent colleague Jordan Graham, the company’s political analyst, in her place.

She also successfully “fought for more than a year to reinstate funding for a Council membership [in BSNF’s] budget, foregoing other memberships and resources to make the case,” said 2015–2016 Council Chairman Rusty Ring when bestowing the honor to Patti at the board meeting.

* * * * *

The Council has honored a Volunteer of the Year annually since 2008. The award recognizes recipients’ contributions not just to the Council but to the larger public affairs profession as well. Previous winners are:

  • Susan Francis, Duke Energy (2015)
  • Heidi Ann Ecker, National Association of Chain Drug Stores (2014)
  • Katherine (Kate) Fry, American Association of Nurse Anesthetists (2013)
  • Heather Cutler, CVS Health (2012)
  • Corey Henry, American Frozen Food Institute (2011)
  • Molly Nichelson, American College of Cardiology (2010)
  • Shannon Bearinger, Nationwide (2009)
  • Ellie Shaw, American Express (2008)
Additional Resources

Council Governance
Volunteer of the Year Award

Want more information?

Council Governance: Contact Brenda Plantikow, manager, board relations.
Volunteer of the Year Award: Contact Caryn Seligman, senior director.